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Puppy Scams Cost Americans $1 Million; 5 Red Flags to Watch Out for While Purchasing a Canine Companion

learn how to protect your heart and wallet when seeking a genuine canine companion.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Tina Nord
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Tina Nord

In a world where the quest for a loyal and lovable companion has seamlessly merged with the digital era, the alarming rise of puppy scams has cast a shadow over the hearts of eager dog enthusiasts. According to a disconcerting report from, Americans collectively lost a staggering $1 million to fraudulent puppy scams between January and October 2023. These deceitful schemes unfold as unsuspecting individuals, fueled by the excitement of welcoming a new furry family member, venture into the online marketplace in search of their perfect canine companion. Platforms like Facebook and Craigslist, intended to connect like-minded pet lovers, have inadvertently become breeding grounds for unscrupulous scammers, leaving many hearts broken and wallets considerably lighter. Pexels | Photo by mark glancy

Pet puppy | Pexels | Photo by mark glancy

1. Limited access to the puppy: Prospective dog parents naturally desire to meet their future four-legged friends before bringing them home. A major red flag is if a seller denies access to the puppy or provides only a couple of photos. To verify the legitimacy of a listing, individuals can perform a reverse image search on Google Images to check if the pictures are stock images. Additionally, requesting a personalized photo or video with a sign bearing the buyer's name or date can help ensure the seller genuinely possesses the advertised dog.

2. Unconventional payment methods: Scammers often demand payment through unconventional methods such as wire transfers, digital money apps like Zelle or Cash App, or even gift cards. This preference arises because these payment modes are challenging to trace and recover. For a secure transaction, it is advisable to use payment methods that offer fraud protection such as credit cards.

Pexels | Photo by Helena Lopes
Puppies in a basket | Pexels | Photo by Helena Lopes

3. Persistent requests for additional payments: While legitimate sellers may charge fees associated with adopting or purchasing a puppy, they are typically transparent about these costs upfront. Beware of a seller who repeatedly asks for additional payments, claiming these are for unexpected expenses like shipping crates, vaccinations, or insurance. According to, promises of reimbursement for shipping costs or crate rental fees upon the puppy's delivery are often false.

4. Lack of basic information: A reputable breeder or seller should provide comprehensive information about the puppy, including details about the parents and health records. A missing pedigree or incomplete health history on a breeder's site or posting is a warning sign of a potential scam.

5. Too good-to-be-true pricing: Certain dog breeds can command high prices, and if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. A significantly low cost for a specific breed should set off alarm bells, prompting potential buyers to exercise caution and investigate further.

Pexels | Photo by Monstera Production
Pexels | Photo by Monstera Production

As Americans continue their search for the perfect canine companion, vigilance is key. By being aware of these red flags, prospective dog owners can protect themselves from falling victim to puppy scams. The excitement of bringing a new furry friend into the family should be accompanied by due diligence and careful consideration to ensure a joyful and legitimate adoption or purchase process. The joy of having a furry friend should not be marred by the deceitful tactics of scammers. By staying informed and cautious, individuals can navigate the online puppy market safely and welcome a new, legitimate addition to their families.